If you follow these things at all, you know that Jonathan Franzen is really starting to piss people off. (You may recall earlier in the decade when he expressed his discomfort at "The Corrections" being chosen for Oprah's Book Club -- at that time the broad road to riches -- because, in effect, too many of the wrong people would be reading the book for the wrong reasons.)
His new book, "Freedom", comes out next Tuesday and is widely seen as the rightful successor to "The Great Gatsby" or even "War and Peace". He made the cover of Time. Jody Picoult -- hugely popular and critically disdained writer of 'state of the nation' novels -- has called bullshit, playing the sex, race, and genre card. Others have followed. All necessary links are here, if you're interested, including some cogent thoughts from Laura Lippmann -- who amusingly compares her coverage in the NYT to that of "Mr. Lippmann" (David Simon, of The Wire), noting that her marriage to him was noted and his to her was not.....
I am desperately trying to resist (I thought The Corrections was OK.), but really: In the Guardian earlier this week was the following. If somebody liked the book THAT much, could it possibly not be worth a try?
Franzen's daring has been to take on soap operas and HBO mini-series, demonstrating that if you want modern emotional dramas, the novel can provide them today as effectively as it did in the 19th century. But, he also offers something no HBO series can – the solitude and moral introspection of the novel, the beauty of prose, the imaginative love affair you form with characters you alone see in the way you see them. Freedom is the novel of the year, and the century.